The Waterberg Wild Dog Initiative works alongside the community to enhance understanding and promote the conservation of African Wild Dogs within the Waterberg.
Conserving the Waterberg Wild Dogs.
The Waterberg Wild Dog Initiative (WWDI) is a community-driven, non-profit project aiming to conserve the free-roaming African Wild Dog population in the Waterberg Biosphere, Limpopo. The WWDI works alongside the community to collect accurate information on the Waterberg Wild Dogs, understand and mitigate human-wildlife conflict, raise awareness, provide education, and leverage the ecotourism potential of the dogs.
The WWDI works alongside the Waterberg community and other relevant stakeholders to:
monitor the Waterberg Wild Dogs;
understand and mitigate human-wildlife conflict;
collect accurate data;
provide education; and
boost the dogs' ecotourism potential.
By engaging the community with the conservation efforts, the WWDI hopes to foster a sense of community ownership and responsibility for the dogs - changing views, increasing tolerances, and creating a sustainably safe environment for the Waterberg Wild Dogs.
The WWDI has made huge strides in conserving the Waterberg Wild Dogs since its inception in August 2020. The WWDI has placed tracking collars on two free-roaming packs, providing valuable information about the packs and giving an extra layer of protection to the dogs by being able to monitor their movements. Information from these collars is relayed to community members in the area, providing an early-warning system for landowners as the pack moves through private lands.
When dogs travel too close to livestock farms or breeding camps, the WWDI team assists landowners with husbandry tools that deter predation. By reducing the high-value game and livestock species lost to wild dogs through these efforts, WWDI is fostering a more tolerant and sustainable environment for the dogs to thrive.
During the 2021 and 2022 Denning Seasons, the WWDI coordinated ecotourism projects that generated funds from visitors paying to see the wild dog pack and distributed the funds back to the landowners impacted by the TOOG Area pack denning on their property and the surrounding properties. This model leverages the opportunity to observe free-roaming wild dogs while they are relatively stationary during the denning season and uses the funds generated to mitigate the impact of the wild dogs on the properties around the chosen den site. These periods also provided an opportunity to increase awareness and appreciation for the Waterberg Wild Dogs and to learn new information about them that can be shared with the local community and interested researchers.
In September 2022, the WWDI partnered with the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment, and Tourism (LEDET) to facilitate a donation of 75 impalas back to the three private properties that hosted the TOOG Area pack during their recent denning seasons. This exciting project aimed to offset increased stock losses on the private farms that resulted in the pack remaining stationary in the area for an extended period of time while they raised their pups. As a way of saying thank-you to the private landowners and acknowledging the responsibility placed on private properties to conserve the free-roaming African wild dogs, LEDET agreed to donate the 75 impalas from one of the provincial reserves in the province.
By inviting the community to participate in the initiative, the WWDI inspires community members to take ownership of the dogs, become citizen scientists, and conserve them.
These efforts and successes show that a community-driven initiative and a co-existence framework is an effective way to conserve the Waterberg Wild Dogs.
Milestones so far...
The WWDI was founded on August 13th, 2020 following a meeting between prominent Waterberg stakeholders and the Endangered Wildlife Trust. During the meeting, it was decided there needed to be a community-driven project dedicated to conserving the Waterberg Wild Dogs - and the concept of the Waterberg Wild Dog Initiative was conceived.
TOOG Area Pack
Beta Male Collared
Only two weeks after its founding, the WWDI helped coordinate the placement of a GPS tracking collar on the TOOG Area Pack, ranging just south of Lephalale. The WWDI first received a report of an African Wild Dog seen crossing the R33 late one evening. The WWDI and nearby community members quickly responded the following morning to help track the dogs. The private property where they were tracked helped keep tabs on their movements for the following week while a GPS collar was sourced.
This collaring was made possible by a joint effort between the Waterberg community, the WWDI, and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.
TOOG Area Pack Alpha Male Collared
The WWDI partnered with The Aspinall Foundation, a UK-based conservation organization, to fit a GPS tracking collar to the alpha male in the TOOG Area Pack. This second collar was necessary to reliably monitor the pack's movements.
Highveld Forum Presentation
In May 2021, the WWDI Project Coordinator, Reilly Mooney, gave a virtual presentation to the Hivghveld Forum. The title of her talk was Shining the Light on the Elusive Waterberg Wild Dogs and detailed the complexity of Waterberg Wild Dog conservation and WWDI's efforts to date.
TOOG Area Pack
The WWDI partnered with The Aspinall Foundation to place a GPS tracking collar on one of the yearling females in the TOOG Area Pack. This collar will allow the WWDI to monitor and track the yearling females in case they disperse. The beta male's collar stopped sending GPS locations earlier in the year, meaning this collar on the yearling female now functions as the second working collar on the pack, allowing the WWDI to more reliably monitor their movements.
2021 Denning Season Ecotourism Ran
The TOOG Area Pack successfully reared seven new pups during the 2021 Denning Season. During the denning season, wild dogs remain stationary around a den site for approximately 10 weeks. This stationary behavior creates the potential for high, localized impact on private properties and resulting potential for conflict. During this time, the WWDI coordinated a wild dog-based ecotourism operation that generated funds from visitors paying to see the wild dog pack and distributed the funds back to the landowners impacted by the pack denning on their property and the surrounding properties. This period also provided an opportunity to increase awareness and appreciation for the Waterberg Wild Dogs and to learn new information about them that can be shared with the local community and interested researchers.
Over 6.5 weeks, 144 guests donated to view the pack and raised approximately R35,000 in profit to assist the landowners during this time.
For a full copy of the ecotourism report, please find it on our resources page.
Rooiberg Male Collared
In July 2021, two new wild dogs were being reported in the Rooiberg area. One morning, they were seen trying to chase a cheetah coalition off of their fresh kill on the Mabula Private Game Reserve. Through the quick assistance from our veterinarian and the community members in the area, a GPS collar was placed on one of the dogs. This collaring was made possible through the WWDI's partnership with The Aspinall Foundation and the support from the Rory Hensman Conservation & Research Unit.
During the collaring, it was discovered that the two dogs were, in fact, two males that had belonged to a pack of wild dogs in northern Limpopo that were being monitored by the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The males dispersed from the pack earlier in the year and their whereabouts were largely unknown until their arrival on Mabula. Over only a few months, the males travelled 330km to reach Mabula.
Waterberg Nature Conservancy Presentation
In September 2021, WWDI Project Coordinator, Reilly Mooney, gave a talk at the Waterberg Nature Conservancy. The title of her talk was Protecting the Most Important Pack of Waterberg Wild Dogs and it detailed the WWDI's efforts with the TOOG Area Pack over the last year, including the efforts with the ecotourism conducted during the denning season.
Waterberg Academy Presentation
In October 2021, WWDI Project Coordinator, Reilly Mooney, had the chance to connect with learners at the Waterberg Academy through a collaboration with the Welgevonden Environmental Awareness Programme. The title of her talk was Myth-Busting the Waterberg Wild Dogs and it disproved common misconceptions and misbeliefs about the Waterberg Wild Dogs.
TOOG Females Translocated
In March 2022, the WWDI worked with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Mabula Private Game Reserve, and Rooiberg Veterinary Services to translocate two subadult females from the TOOG Area pack to the Mabula Private Game Reserve to be bonded with the two free-roaming males that settled on the reserve in July 2021. The females were selected due to their age, likelihood of dispersal, and need to reduce the pack size and mitigate conflict with the community hosting the TOOG Area pack.
African Wild Dogs United Conference
In April 2022, the WWDI's Project Coordinator, Reilly Mooney, gave a talk at the international African Wild Dogs United virtual conference. The title of her talk was Adaptive, community-based conservation of the free-roaming Waterberg Wild Dog population in a human-dominated landscape in South Africa. The conference brought together African wild dog conservationists from multiple disciplines and was attended by over 250 delegates from around the world.
Waterberg Nature Conservancy Presentation
In May 2022, the WWDI's Project Coordinator, Reilly Mooney, gave a talk to the Waterberg Nature Conservancy. Her talk, titled A Step Forward for Waterberg Wild Dog Conservation, provided an overview about the recent translocation of the two females and formation of the new breeding pack on the Mabula Private Game Reserve.
2022 Denning Season Ecotourism Project
June - August 2022
From June - August 2022, the WWDI facilitated its 2022 Waterberg Wild Dog Ecotourism Project while the TOOG Area Pack denned on a private farm near Lephalale, Limpopo. The project successfully leveraged the opportunity to view the pack while they remained relatively stationary in the area during their denning season and used the funds raised from guests to mitigate the impact of the pack on the private properties that hosted them. This form of co-existence aimed to ensure that the landowners hosting the dogs were not substantially impacted by providing protection to the pack during this critical time. It also provided an opportunity to gain new information and increase awareness and appreciation for the pack.
Over an 8-week period, 260 guests were taken to view the TOOG Area Pack, generating approximately R50,000 in profit to support the landowners hosting the pack during this time. For a full copy of the 2022 ecotourism report, please visit our resources page.
In August 2022, a GPS tracking collar was fitted to a young, adult male wild dog in a free-roaming pack near the Melkrivier Area of the Waterberg. This collaring was enabled by the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the team at Lindani Lodges and supported by Painted Wolf Wines. It is the first time in over 3 years that a tracking collar has been fitted to the pack.
Impala Donation to Replenish Game
In September 2022, the WWDI partnered with the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment, and Tourism to facilitate a donation of 75 impalas to support the three private farms that hosted the TOOG Area Pack during their denning season. The impalas were donated from one of LEDET's provincial reserves near Marblehall and were captured and translocated to the three private farms near Lephalale.
Thank you to LEDET for recognizing the responsibility placed on the private farms to conserve the free-roaming pack and for assisting in supporting their conservation efforts. Thank you to the Africa's Wild Dog Survival Fund, the Puma Garage in Vaalwater, Elite Mica in Lephalale, and many private donors for contributing towards covering the capture and transport costs. Thank you to Nylsvlei Game Traders for safely capturing and transporting the impalas.